First Flight Society To Name Latest Honoree, Honorary Members

Event marks 119th anniversary of Wright Brothers’ first powered flight in 1903.

The 1903 Wright Flyer parked at the camp at Kitty Hawk, 1903. [Courtesy: National Park Service]

It is that time of year again, and I am not talking about the holidays. Tomorrow marks the 119th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ famous flight at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

This is a good time for pilots and others to reflect on the challenges the Wrights and other aviation pioneers faced during the early days of powered flight and how far flying has advanced since then.

This is also the time of year when the First Flight Society inducts its latest honoree into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. This year’s honoree is General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the first African-American general in the United States Air Force.

A West Point graduate, Davis, went on to command the famous Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He flew a number of aircraft during his long career including the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, and F-86 Sabre. He will be inducted into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at Wright Brothers National Memorial on December 17.

The Society also is naming four new honorary members: record holder Zara Rutherford, military pilot Nicole Malachowski, aircraft collector Jerry Yagen and artist Gregory Kavalec.

Earlier this year 19-year-old Rutherford became the youngest woman to fly around the world and the first to circumnavigate the earth in an ultralight aircraft. The trip began in Kortrijk, Belgium, in August 2021, and ended there in January 2022.

Nicole Malachowski was the first woman selected as a member of  U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team. She went on to command the Commander of the 333rd Fighter Squadron, where she trained students to fly the F-15E fighter. She is a retired Air Force colonel.

Gerald “Jerry” Yagen founded the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo, Virginia, Centura College and the Aviation Institute of Maintenance schools. His museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of vintage military aircraft that fly regularly.

The artist Gregory Kavalec created many of the paintings In the First Flight Society’s Paul E Garber Shrine. His latest work will be unveiled on December 17 at Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Previous honorary members include General Charles McGee, Colonel Gail Halvorsen, Patty Wagstaff, Rob Holland, and Sean D Tucker.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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